The April 26th Entry about the conditions at the Yelm Animal Control Shelter garnered varies responses & volunteers to come forward.
This comment is from a 25 year veteran Animal Care and Control Officer Shelby Russell-Diaz
Hello Tim [Yelm Public Works’ Tim Peterson],
Thanks for your time on Friday, April 25, 2008. Thanks for showing me your kennel building, your interest and sincerity.
I have never been in a position as I was Friday; visiting a shelter and providing advise for improvement. I felt I wasn’t fully prepared to give advise at the time, I had just planned on observing and asking questions. I didn’t really expect you to ask for advise. I had quite a bit of time to think about it on my way home.
All-in-all I think you and your staff are probably doing the best you can with what training and equipment you have been provided with. Your staff clearly helped by building the kennel building so the dogs would have some secure shelter. The building is attractive, however it is not a very functional “animal shelter”. As we discussed, there is no heat, it is quite breezy and cold in the winter, and it gets hot in the summer, even with the siding on two sides that were left short for ventilation. The building is likely acceptable for many dogs acclimated to being housed outdoors, however it is totally unacceptable for indoor dogs, and many young and old dogs. Crating animals in a greenhouse might be fine temporarily, or in an emergency, but it concerns me that your staff may get a broken water main on Main Street and everybody runs off to handle the emergency, completely forgetting about the animal(s) crated in the greenhouse that can get overheated during the day. A greenhouse is totally unacceptable housing for animals being housed by a City Government.
The building and greenhouse are unacceptable for other species of animals, as well. I understand you only handle dogs, but Animal Control typically handles all kinds of domestic animals. I should’ve asked what Yelm does about injured cats, cats, rabbits, snakes, hamsters, or whatever left behind by renters. These are all things most animal control agencies handle, most citizens have an expectation that animal control will help with these animals, and I believe we have a moral and societal responsibility to the animals in our jurisdiction.
I know none of these decisions are yours. You are a water/sewer guy. Yelm needs a dedicated Animal Control Officer, or better yet 1 1/2-2 officers. If there is to be 7 day a week service as well as callouts at night, it seems at least 1 1/2 officers would be needed.
Yelm needs an insulated animal shelter with a washer and dryer so towels and blankets, all standard in an animal shelter, can be washed and disinfected. Hot water and a sink for washing hands, toys and bowls. I failed to ask what your kennels are washed with, but you stated they are washed four times a day. There was one dog in the building, yet it reeked of urine. You commented on the odor as we entered and before I smelled it. If there is one dog, the run is cleaned four times and day, and it is done properly, there would be no odor. Yelm needs a shelter with a refrigerator, for food, and vaccine storage. Animals should be vaccinated upon arrival. Dogs also should have bedding and indestructible, washable or disposable toys as the happier a dog is, the less stressed it is, the healthier they stay, and therefore, the easier to house and adopt it is. Again, this is not all stuff I expect you to know, and this is why a dedicated officer, or two should be hired.
You said the animals are held for three stray days, then two adoption days, and that volunteers complained that nobody knew where the shelter was. You said the shelter is advertised every week in the local paper. Not everybody gets/reads the paper. There was no blue City of Yelm Animal Shelter sign down on Main street, directing people to the road the shelter and public works is on. There also was no sign indicating there is a shelter out on the road. The only sign is the little sign above the kennel building door. It would appear very little is being done to adopt animals from the Yelm shelter, other than maybe by word of mouth??? Maybe you’ve seen the utility bill inserts some jurisdictions use to advertise their shelters, and or license requirements. Just a thought. Volunteers can take adoptable dogs to parks, and pet supply stores for adoption events.
I believe the City of Yelm owes their citizens and animals the services of a working animal shelter and a Progressive Animal Care and Control program over a temporary shelter for outdoor dogs.
I will encourage the City Council to move that direction as well as to train ACO’s through the National Animal Control Association Academies, to become members of the National Animal Control Association, Washington Animal Control Association, and to seek sheltering information through Animal Sheltering Magazine. The American Humane Association has valuable cruelty investigations training available as well.
In the mean time, as I said on Friday, you have several volunteers who sound like they would be very valuable assets. I understand they are willing to build, or help build the outdoor, covered runs we talked about. They understand you are water/sewer guys who would rather not do animal control, and who get paid very little for your animal duties. THEY DO NOT WANT TO TAKE YOUR JOBS. They want all adoptable animals adopted. They understand some animals are not adoptable, but they also understand that dogs under stress, and in unfamiliar situations with people who don’t fully understand them, don’t always act adoptable until their stress is relieved and trust is gained. The volunteers have time to spend, and desire to give that little extra time and attention that can mean the difference between adoption and euthanasia.
Although I haven’t spoken to all of the volunteers in your situation, the ones I’ve spoken to at our shelter volunteer because they love animals, they have a bit of extra time to spend, and it makes them feel good to know the time and money they spent made a difference to that animal and it’s new family. They are not usually looking for new jobs, they support the officers who are caring, accepting, supportive, and tough with offenders and irresponsible pet owners. They are our biggest supporters. They often will come take sick kittens or puppies too young to be in the shelter, or who may need bottle feeding. I will send you a copy of the volunteer portion of our labor agreement to see if you can incorporate any of it into your future labor contract.
Thanks again, Tim. Good luck in your future Public Works/Animal Control endeavors.
25 year veteran Animal Care and Control Officer
P. S. Here are some links I also sent Tim, that may be of some help:
Shelter operations guidelines. Basic minimum standards regardless of size of shelter
THE MAYOR’S RESPONSE:
“We’ll most likely be making a recommendation to the council later this year,” quoting the April 25 NVN.
Nisqually Valley News Editor/Publisher wrote a scathing editorial in his newspaper’s May 2nd edition out on newsstands today about these ladies’ reports and The Olympian story, saying, “‘WE…CAME TO THE CONCLUSION THE DOTS SIMPLY WEREN’T CONNECTING’ and suggesting these fine people were preying ‘on the emotions of animal-lovers at the expense of the reputations of the city of Yelm and its staff.. is unfair and, frankly, rather suspect’.
Mr. Graves, reason with me for a moment:
why would 2 women from neighboring towns (and a third who formed a sign-up sheet in McKenna) bother to prey on the emotions of animal-lovers in Yelm and injure city staff reputations? Come on now? No one on city staff is up for re-election here to be slandered by women from neighboring towns.
And Ms. Russell-Diaz is not just someone that would prey on emotions, rather a 25 year veteran Animal Care and Control Officer, whom this writer found very credible!
THIS WRITER DOES AGREE WITH MR GRAVES ON ONE THING:
“IF RESIDENTS OF YELM DEMAND MORE THAN A CLEAN, DRY, BASIC TEMPORARY SHELTER FOR LOST ANIMALS, THEN RESIDENTS NEED TO SPEAK UP, AND PONY UP, TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN.”
IF ANYONE IS INTERESTED IN VOLUNTEERING TO HELP MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR THE DOGS AT THE YELM SHELTER, WE NEED YOUR HELP. LETS GET TOGETHER, PUT ALL OUR GOOD IDEAS IN WRITING AND FIGURE OUT A WAY TO SAVE OUR DOGS.
“There will be a Sign Up Sheet at the Liquid Soul Coffee Caf in McKenna. 360-400-7685 Call and leave your name and number or drop in and leave the information. We will call everyone on the list and set up a convenient time for our first meeting. There are so many good things we can do to do to give these dogs a second chance. If you love dogs and have a little extra time, we can use your help.
Barbara Salinas is the owner of the caf and says “There is strength in numbers”. She is so right. We can hold our meeting at the caf and make plans to improve conditions at the Yelm Animal Control Shelter, ” quoting Ms. Crimi.